Holidays and stress go hand in hand. We want to enjoy family and friends but our need to have everything perfect, only leads to a huge build up of stress.

The expectations of social events, gift shopping, and entertaining guests can become too much for even the most festive types. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association 8 out of 10 people expect to experience an increase in stress over the holiday season.

With stress comes a greater risk of anxiety and depression, and reports from the Mayo Clinic show that depression is frequently an unwelcome guest over the holidays.

All is not lost however, there are many ways you can minimize your stress and anxiety to allow you to truly enjoy the season.

Set A Budget

A lot of the stress that we experience during the holidays is due to financial pressure and the Mayo Clinic suggests that setting a budget can be beneficial to your stress levels. Work out how much you can afford to spend on food and gifts, and stick to it, even if you have to leave the mailman off the gift list.

Exercise

The American Heart Association wants you to stay active all the time, and it’s extremely important to keep that up during the holidays. Any activity or exercise you can fit in will help reduce your stress and elevate your mood. It’s going to stimulate endorphin production and trigger a positive feeling in your body.

You might be busy, but if you can find time to exercise for half an hour three times a week, you will feel better. You can go walking or jogging, swimming or biking, play sports with your kids or just plain get off your butt and move!

Take It Easy

There are parties and gatherings and we are constantly surrounded by people. It’s great to be with the ones we love and laugh about the old days.

You shouldn’t miss all those great times, but what you should be careful of, is setting unrealistic expectations. You can’t do everything, and it’s okay to take time out for yourself, even if it’s just 15 minutes.

If you do a whole lot of hosting, make sure you delegate, whether you ask everyone to bring a different dish, or you rope in family to take on certain tasks.

Stay Smart

The holiday season is a time of indulgence, but, it doesn’t mean you should abandon your healthy ways. There’s no need for a free for all that will just add to your stress.

Enjoy yourself, but try having healthy snacks before holiday gatherings so you don’t over snack while you’re out. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep, as you are more likely to overindulge after a poor night’s sleep.

Bottom Line

Self-care is conscious choice and this is even more true during times of more stress, such as the holiday season. Make sure to take the time and create a deliberate plan! Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, family and relaxation, don’t let stress interfere with this great time of year.

Food safety and barbecues should go hand in hand. Keeping your food at the right temperature before and after cooking is very important.

food safety

Barbecues are a great time to get together with friends and family. The noise of loved ones, fresh air and the wonderful aroma of barbecued foods is a recipe for a great time. But with this fun comes the responsibility of knowing all of the food safety tips for barbecues.

Proper Refrigeration

No one wants food poisoning, and because of this you need to make sure to keep your foods properly refrigerated before and after they are barbecued.

Foods, and especially meat of any kind, needs to be kept in the refrigerator as long as possible before being cooked. Don’t let the meat marinate on the shelf, as bacteria can begin to grow under these circumstances. Play it safe and move the items in your fridge around the night before so that you have ample room to store all your various foods there on the day of the barbecue.

Keep an Eye on the Temperature

Always know the temperature on the day you are having your barbecue. Whether your meat is being brought back into the house or sitting outside, know what conditions you are working with temperature-wise.

If it is a hot day, be sure to keep the meat in the shade or indoors. Don’t ever allow food to sit in direct sunlight as it can spoil very quickly. If it is hot both indoors and out, put the most sensitive items in the fridge or in a slow cooker, with a sign directing guests where to fill their plates.

Make Only as Much as Needed

When you are cooking items such as meat, make only as much as needed, plus a little more. Although everyone loves leftover barbecue, it is much more important to keep food safety rules as first priority, and to get rid of any leftovers.

Because of this, make smaller batches of food and simply quit once everyone seems to have gotten their fill. If this means that individuals have to wait for second helpings, this is preferable to food spoiling and harming your guests. Besides, they will surely be able to find someone to chat with while waiting for their steak or burger to cook.

What Meat Can Be Eaten Pink?

There are rules of barbecue safety that must be followed if you want to have an incident-free event. Pork and chicken must always be cooked thoroughly.

When it comes to beef, there is a rule of thumb that should be followed. Any meat that has ever been exposed must be cooked. That means that when it comes to steak, you can leave the inside pink if you wish, as long as the outer edges are well-cooked. For ground beef, since all of it has been ground up and exposed at some point, it must be cooked through.

Don’t Cross-Contaminate

Vegetables will not need to be cooked as long as meat. For this reason, leave your vegetable skewers and other non-meat items separate from the meat. Add the vegetables to the grill near the end when the meat is almost cooked, instead of the beginning when raw juices are on the grill.

Barbecues are a good time to showcase your cooking skills. Keep it safe and learn how to make your time enjoyable and free of food poisoning episodes. Follow these rules and you will have a great time as you barbecue, leaving your food safety worries aside.

 

 

 

 

I’m a believer in cooking more than one meal at a time.  Cooking multi meals at the same time, sets you up for more time in the evening for family activities or just plain sitting and enjoying each other.  If you don’t have time to do, two complete meals, do the prep work for both at one time. Below are three recipes where all the hard stuff can be done at once, setting you up for 20-30 minute meals.
Shopping list for three meals:
2 Pounds of Ground Beef
2 Large Onions
1 Red Sweet Bell Pepper
1 Jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
Small head of lettuce
1 Package of soft tortilla shells
1 Package of Corn Tortilla Shells
3 Packages of Ramen Noodles [chicken or beef]
1 Can of Diced Tomatoes
Assorted Shredded Cheese
1 Package of Taco Spices
2 Roma Tomatoes
Prep by chopping the onions, tomatoes and pepper.
Shred ½ head of the lettuce
Place the vegetables into separate zip lock bags and refrigerate.
Brown the ground beef and ½ of the chopped onions, just until the meat is pink, then cool and divide into 3 equal parts.
Place the meat into air tight containers and refrigerate until needed.
Beef Tacos
1 part of the browned meat
1 package of taco spices
the chopped onions, tomatoes and lettuce
½ to ¾ cup of shredded cheese
Taco shells [flour and corn]
Finish cooking the ground meat, adding the spice package. Place all the ingredients on your table and allow everyone to make their own taco.
Serve with Corn on the cob and some Fresh fruit to complete your family meal.
Ramen Noodle Beef Casserole
1 part of the browned meat
3 packages of Ramen noodles, broken into pieces
¼ cup of chopped onions
1 can of diced tomatoes
3 cups of water
shredded cheese
Using a medium pot, add the ground meat, onions, diced tomatoes and cook until the onions are soft. Add in the water, noodles and flavor packages. Cook over medium heat until the water has disappeared, pour the mixture into a casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with ¾ cup of shredded cheese*.
Place in a 350 degree preheated oven and bake until the cheese has melted down over the noodles [about 12 minutes].
Serve with a garden salad, using the second half of the lettuce and some of the other chopped veggies.
*Velveeta Cheese can be used here, instead.
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Add the browned meat plus ½ cup of onions and ½ of the chopped red pepper, to a medium sauce pan. Cook while stirring, until the vegetables are soft, then add the jar of sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Using a large pot, heat 4-6 quarts of water. Salt the water until you can lightly taste the salty flavor to enhance the flavor of the pasta. You want it to taste like the ocean not the Dead Sea. When the water reaches its boiling point, place in the pasta of your choice and cook as directed on the package.
When the pasta has cooked, drain well, removing all the water you can, return it to the pot or a serving platter. Some people like to add the pasta into their sauce but I do not. It will soak up the sauce too quickly and in some cases will leave you with a dry pasta dish with no sauce to serve on the side. I prefer to place my pasta on my plate then add the sauce over the top, adding a little sprinkle of cheese.
Serve with warm garlic bread and steamed green beans to complete your meal.  Cooking multi meals at one time will allow you more family time when it comes to putting dinner on the table.

Most of us are busy throughout the year but with the holidays coming we sometimes need a little extra help in keeping up with our duties.  These are a few of my favorite quick and easy dinners to do, just that.

Chicken Pizza Casserole:

Line an oven safe casserole dish or pizza pan with frozen chicken nuggets, get them as close as possible. Then pour a can of tomato sauce over the nuggets. Layer in about ¾ cup of mozzarella cheese and your favorite veggie toppings*. Cover tightly, with foil.

If you are going to use within 48 hours, place it your fridge until needed, then bake covered at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake until the cheese has melted and slightly browns.

*Cut your veggies into bit sizes for even cooking. A Jar of pizza sauce can be used instead of the tomato sauce for extra flavor.

Cheesy Mac and Beans Casserole:

Cook one or two packages of macaroni and cheese, depending on the size of your family, following box instructions. When done, place in oven safe large bowl or casserole dish. Make a dimple or path in the macaroni and cheese then pour in a can of drained dark kidney beans. Chop a large onion and do a quick fry with 1 tablespoon of oil, in a medium skillet until the onion is almost cooked. Spread the partially cooked onions over the cheese and bean mixture. Cover mixture with about 1 ½ cups of chopped chicken, ham or grilled beef, spreading it evenly. Cover with foil.

Cover your casserole dish with foil, then place in fridge until needed or freeze for later use. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the cover and sprinkle about ½ cup of shredded Cheddar cheese over the top and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and turned a light brown.

Serve with a tossed green salad for a nourishing quick meal. 

These two easy dinners, can be time savers for any night of the week.  They are delicious enough for company or just for family night.

More tips for easy dinners can be found at  http://hassieskitchentable.com/whats-dinner/

To me, there is nothing better, than opening my front door and smelling the aroma of my dinner cooking in my slow cooker or crock pot.
When I had five children at home, it was the most used cooking utensil in the kitchen, and still is. Although I am a single person now, I still use my tried and true friend, the crock pot.

Over the years, I have found, these few tips improve my crock pot cooking joy.

cold weather and hot food
[1] Using the right size crock pot, for the job.  I have three different size crock pot cookers, because I never want to over fill the cooking insert.  It would only cause spillage or under cooked food.
[2] Planning ahead by doing the chopping of your vegetables the night before and storing them in the refrigerator is the secret to quickly getting the meal together before leaving for work.  DO NOT, store the vegetables in the crock pot insert.  Starting with a cold insert will only add to the cooking time. So store the chopped veggies in an air tight container overnight, then place them in the cooker in the morning.
[3] You should prepare your meat before hand, too.  Remember you are cooking with low heat, so you do not want to have you meat to be too thick, as it may not reach a safe cooking temperature.  A piece of meat no more than 2 inches thick, should work great.  Keeping your whole chicken or chicken parts to about 2-3 pounds works well, also.  Do a spice rub on your meat of choice, cover or wrap, then place it in the refrigerator with your vegetables.
[4] DO NOT lift the lid on your crock pot, until you are within the last 30-45 minutes of the cooking time.  It will only release the heat and interupt the cooking process.
You can check for doneness or add spices in the last 30 minutes of so but at any other time, you are doing more harm than good.
[5] If time permits, add more flavor to your meal by searing your beef.  Heat a heavy skillet to hot, add a tablespoon of oil, then place the meat in the hot skillet, listen for the sizzle.  Cook on both sides about 1-3 minutes each, depending on the thickness of your meat.  Then place the piece of meat into your crock pot cooker and add any juices from the skillet before placing the lid on the slow cooker and starting your cooking time.  You will get a richer broth and fuller flavor from the beef by doing this extra step.

Cooking Summer Corn

Summer Corn

Summer Corn Makes Any Meal Complete

If you have never tried cooking your fresh summer corn on the cob in your microwave, well, it might be time to try it. Your corn will taste delicious and keep it’s beautiful coloring, too.

It’s simple and easy to do. Pull back the shucks, remove as many of the silks as you can, by gently rubbing a damp cloth over the corn. Pull the shucks back up over the corn and completely cover in plastic wrap. Cook 6-8 minutes on high for 2 pieces of corn, turning every couple of minutes, so all sides are in the up position at least once.  If you have not done this before you may have to try a couple before you get the texture and taste that suits you.

Roasting Summer Corn On A Grill:

Cookouts are a family favorite all year round but especially in the summer time.  Corn is one of the easiest veggies to make, to go along with all your grilled meats.

Shuck and remove the silk from 6 ears of summer corn. Lightly wash each ear.  You will need six 12 inch pieces of foil to wrap your corn cobs.  Lay each of them on one sheet of foil and spread your favorite topping around the cob, making sure all kernels have been coated.  Cover the corn cob with the foil by rolling and twisting the ends to make a package. Lay the packages over the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill’s lid.  Grill for about 15 minutes, turning every 3-4 minutes.  Take care when opening the package and not burn yourself from the steam and hot liquid.

Toppings For Your Summer Corn

[1] Place an equal amount of butter and cream cheese into a bowl and mix until you have a soft spreadable mixture.   Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of Chili Powder while stirring.  Spread on your hot corn. Leave at room temperature when serving.  Refrigerate between uses.

[2] 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh basil, 2 teaspoons of grated fresh garlic and  3 Tablespoons of Virgin Olive Oil.  Place all ingredients in a lidded jar [mine is an old jelly jar] and shake to incorporate the flavors.  Brush the mixture over your hot freshly cooked summer corn for an unusual favorable taste.

Corn is the vegetable that is served most often, all over the world, with our meals but there is no match for the flavor of fresh summer corn, straight from the farmer or you and your home garden.

Summer time is here, which means, it is time to bring out the grill and get busy grilling.

The easiest grill to use, by far, is the gas grill but if you are wanting more flavor in your food, choose a charcoal grill for your grilling needs.

Smokers are especially nice because you can also control the flavor by changing the type of wood or wood chips you use. They are good if you want to slow cook your meat.

If you want to cook something a little quicker, you may just want to stick with the charcoal grill.
summer time and grilling
Charcoal grills can offer you the best in grilling, whether it be a large juicy steak or a pot of beans.  The offer direct and indirect heat sources, which means, if your grill is large enough you can cook the whole meal at one time.

Two of my favorite easy grilling recipes are:

  • Mrs Dash Chicken

6 Boneless Chicken Thighs

1 Teaspoon Garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons of Mrs Dash, original

Using a large plastic bag, add all ingredients and shake until the chicken pieces are coated in the spices and garlic.  Place on a well greased medium hot grill, skin side down and cook for about 4 minutes, depending on the size of your thighs.  Turn over once, the meat will let you know when, by the way if releases from the grill.  Do not force it, if it sticks, let it be for another minute then try turning it again.

Cook on the second side for about 3 minutes, then remove.  Allow it to rest about 5 minutes before eating, so all the natural juices can soak back into the meat.  Always use tongs when turning your meat to keep the natural moisture inside your meat pieces.

  • Grilled Corn On The Cob

6 Fresh Corn on the Cob, washed and cleaned

6 Tablespoons of soft Butter, infused with fresh basil and cilantro. [Add about one teaspoon of each, chopped fine to the butter]

Cover each corn cob with 1 tablespoon of the infused butter, then wrap in foil.

When all 6 have been wrapped, lay them on the indirect heat side of the grill, then close the lid.  Depending on the size of your corn, it will take between 15 and 20 minutes for them to cook.  Turn them every 5 minutes to give all the corn a chance to bathe in the melted butter.

Unwrap and eat with your chicken for a delightful meal. Grilling with friends and family is always a great way to fellowship and grow that lovin feeling.

What’s for dinner?  Here are some menu helping tips for busy a Mom.

Dinner being the last meal of the day, becomes a time when families can get together and talk about their day. It is also a hectic meal time for most moms who are just getting off of work.  If you are a busy mom, here are some menu planning tips to help make the age old question What’s for Dinner?, easier to answer and even have fun.

Schedule your meals a week in advance.

What's For Dinner

This is one of the most important planning tips for “What’s For Dinner”? Knowing what you are going to eat throughout the week means less chance that you will stop off at the closest fast food joint for a convenient, but unhealthy meal. Decide on the last day of the previous week, what the menu will be for the following week. Create your shopping list from the list of your on hand ingredients, to avoid buying what you don’t need at the grocery store.

Look for bargains.

Clip, share or trade coupons.  Read advertising circulars to decide where the best grocery to shop is for your menu items. If one ingredient is a common denominator in many meals, consider buying in bulk to save money. Common staples like milk, eggs, bread and sugar can be bought in bulk as well. Some stores will have double or triple coupon days when you can save even more.

Search online.

Don’t get into a rut, your family will get tired of chicken and rice every Thursday.  Use the Internet to search for new and exciting What’s for Dinner? recipes.  You can also learn to put a new twist on an old recipe for a new taste.

Have a leftover night.

After cooking meals for five or six days, there is bound to be left over food.  Choose one night a week to be leftover night and let everyone mix and match for dinner. It will save you money and keep your food waste to almost nothing.

Cook your meals in advance.

After deciding on your, What’s For Dinner? menu question, go ahead and fix as many of the meals, as you can. Choose a day when you will have some help on hand.  Each person can take one meal and fix it for the following week. Once everything has cooled, store it in sealed containers or casserole dishes to be frozen until the night it is needed.

Do prep work in advance.

In most cases, all of the meals can’t be cooked at once time. Some foods just taste better, cooked fresh. For them, do as much prep work as you can, in advance.  Get your kids to help chop but let them use the kitchen shears instead of knives. When you have the vegetables chopped and the cooked meat, diced, place them into air tight container and refrigerate, until needed.  Mix together the dry ingredients and do likewise. The night of the meal, add the wet ingredients and cook.

What’s for dinner?, does not have to be a question that only mom can answer. The entire family can help with dinner so it is a relaxing meal for everyone.

Here is one of my favorite places to get family dinner ideas:

 

Home cooking can make a difference in your life and food budget.  These days, people are turning to their home stoves and cookware rather than dialing up for take-out or delivery, or heading to a restaurant.  People choose to eat at home because they think it’s healthier and better for the family, and finances are only part of that. Regardless, cooking at home can make all the difference. Here’s how.

Home Cooking

  • Known Ingredients

When you  do home cooking for your own meals, you know what is going into your recipes. Even if you don’t know the number of calories or the sodium content,  you do know you can control the sodium, sugar, and caloric content just by using the correct ingredients when you cook your own food. Restaurant food often has many different additives in it, not to mention high amounts of salt and sugar.

When you are at home cooking, you aren’t fooled by clever names or labels  that some restaurants place in their menus, to get you to think they are thinking of your health.

  • Less Time Than You Think

Lots of people are fear the prospect of cooking at home because  most think it takes to much time to cook and clean up. But think about this, by the time you get everyone dressed and out the door, 30 minutes have gone by.  Traveling will take another 15-30 minutes.  Finding a seat and ordering, will add another 20 minutes, then the wait for it to be cooked and brought to your table will add 20 minutes to an hour.   You will have spent  anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours, getting ready and waiting to eat.

Most home cooked meals take from 30 to 45 minutes to prepare,  then you eat and maybe you will have a 30 minute clean up period but you can share that with the rest of the family, so it will go quicker.  Home cooking and cleaning up can be family time, too.  Time, learning how your kids day went, how your spouse cleaned their desk to get home to the family for dinner.

All in all, home cooking is more than just putting food on the table, it’s time well spent with the family.  Studies have shown that families that do home cooking, eating together and talking over their day, have less stress and strive in their daily lives.